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PRABUDDHA BHARATAPrabuddha Bharata | April 2005  

 

 

 

 

 

 

            Individual Being and the Universal Being

 


          Swami Pitambarananda

 


     While reading Sri Shankaracharya's commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad (verse 3), we come across the following observation: 'Otherwise, the indwelling Self, as circumscribed by one's own body, will alone be perceived, as It is by the Sankhyas and others; and in that case the specific statement, made by the Upanishads, that It is non-dual will have no distinctiveness, for there will be no difference from the philosophies of the Sankhyas and others. But as a matter of fact, it is desirable to find all the Upanishads in accord in propounding the unity of all the selves.'

     On reading this, a sadhaka who had no knowledge about Sankhya, asked for an elaboration in simple, spiritual language. The question is very fundamental and it needs to be dwelt upon in some detail. We shall discuss it from various angles under three headings:

     (1) The Sankhya attitude;

     (2) Vedantic rishis and their realization;

     (3) The necessary corresponding attitude of a true sadhaka.



     The Sankhya Philosophy



     There are persons who are selfish, who have experienced life in the world as full of misery, who believe in rational intelligence and follow the methods of observation and generalization as in science. The difference is that science does not go beyond data collected and verified by the five senses; while these Sankhya philosophers undertake subtler generalizations based on the subtle truths perceived by yogic methods of concentration. Their ultimate conclusions are:

      There are two eternal existential categories - consciousness and matter.
      There are innumerable 'consciousnesses' (conscious entities) called purushas.
      All matter, gross and subtle, is unified in an indiscreet matrix called prakriti.
      This indiscreet prakriti functions in the presence of the purushas and evolves into the world. Its purpose is to give experiences (enjoyment) to the purushas and then to release them into a state of kaivalya or moksha.

     Kaivalya or moksha means conscious dissociation from prakriti. Man is miserable because of his wrong identification with the evolutes of prakriti from gross matter up to buddhi (the faculty of intelligence). So moksha consists in conscious dissociation from prakriti - leaving it to work for others. Such an individual (the mukta) is free from the possibility of misery. The Sankhyas do not know whether there is anything called ananda, or bliss, apart from release from the possibility of duhkha, or sorrow.

     There is no real God in the Sankhya philosophy. They say, 'If God is perfect why should He create this universe? If God is imperfect He cannot create it.' They accept a ruler god, omniscient and omnipotent for all time - that individual, who, instead of enjoying his separation from prakriti, identifies himself with prakriti in its entirety rather than with its individualized evolutes. So he gets the power to direct the affairs of the world.

     So the Sankhyas do not get stuck with the five organs like the scientists, but are confounded by the buddhi which results in this purusha-prakriti separation. They say, 'The purusha has no sukha-duhkha (happiness or misery)', and yet they posit the difference in individual perception of sukha-duhkha as proof of the existence of (an infinite number of) different purushas! This means that they are not able to remove the 'my' factor from consciousness.

 



     Vedantic Rishis and Their Realization



     The Vedantic rishis do not uphold individualism, nor are they afraid of misery as they well know that bliss is their very nature. Their findings include the following:

      The ultimate Reality is one without a second.
      It is of the nature of unbroken Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.
      It manifests in infinite forms.
      These forms hide the absolute Existence-Consciousness-Bliss nature of Reality and only then do we call these forms 'matter'.
      While appearing in manifold forms it creates or projects, or rather appears, as an instrument called mind (that includes buddhi), which has the property of illusorily splitting all forms into subjective and objective categories. The individual souls (purushas) appear different only because of consciousness being wrongly identified with individualized subjective parts of matter, which identification has no basis in Reality. If I am searching for 'my reality', I cannot reach the ultimate Reality unless everything that is 'my' is dropped.
      Bliss is our nature. It is identical with Consciousness, which has nothing to do with any form. As soon as it appears to be identified with a particularized form, the bliss is covered and the unreal, apparent subject-object split produces perpetual tension. This is because whether we posses an object or dissociate from it, we and the object are separate and this separation between apparent subjects and apparent objects produces eternal tension. Tension ceases only when there is no split. This can be achieved neither by denying objects nor by embracing them, because this does not remove the split.
      Moksha, or perfection, consists in the realization that:

     a) There is no 'matter', everything is but the continually changing forms of Reality, One without a second.

     b) The split between subject and object is not real, and hence there is no split in Consciousness. Even the split in matter (forms of consciousness) is caused by the mind, which is itself an appearance of Reality.

     c) The same God, sat-chit-ananda, appears as I, you, he, she, it - objects and subjects in this world. All appearances are illusory as God has not changed at all, and in reality God is beyond all forms; hence no split is possible in Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.

     d) This God is appearing as 'I' and the 'world', but in moksha It shows Itself as without split, without form, as in Sri Ramakrishna's nirvikalpa samadhi. This is infinite Existence, infinite Consciousness, infinite Bliss, the One without a second. This is the source of the feeling of an unchanging Atman in us, this is beyond manifoldness, this is real and absolute tranquility - all other tranquilities are reflections of this on different levels; this is the supreme good and all bliss, this is non-dual.


      There is this God. He (or She) is perfect. He has no motive or purpose in creating the world that gives us the impression that He is imperfect. It is His (or Her) nature to appear in myriad forms. In fact it is the Reality Absolute denoted by 'It', which, without any change, without any split, appears as this phenomenal existence. We then say that there is a 'power of appearance', and we identify this power as feminine; hence when 'It' appears as having a power then It is termed 'He' and the power 'She'. Sant Jnaneshwar declares, 'It is the essence of all zeros (that is, when everything is reduced to zero, you really get to the Reality-at-the-back, which is It); but this power (to appear as the manifold) is conceptualized as a feminine entity, which makes this 'It' appear as 'He' and who Herself appears as power due to His mere presence.

      We are all one, or rather non-different, in this God.



     Necessary Corresponding Attitude of a True Sadhaka

 



     In the beginning the sadhaka feels as follows:

      I am imperfect - incomplete like a fraction. I have a subject-object polarity. God is perfect. He is the partless whole. He, or rather 'It', is beyond all polarity, beyond all split. Such a God or Brahman is my Atman. Unless I realize It fully in my being, in my consciousness, and in my life, I can never be at peace.
      God, who is sat-chit-ananda, is all-pervading. The 'all' as such is the continually changing, evanescent realm of forms. This includes all the parts and phases of my personality. The feeling of something real, something continuous is only due to His all-pervasiveness. How can I realize this God, who is my own reality and also the one Reality of the entire ever-changing universe?
      All the problems of my life will be automatically solved when I realize God, who is my Self and also the Reality of all phenomena, and who is ever beyond all manifoldness or differences, beyond any subject-object split.
      I do not want anything of this world; I do not want to be attached to any part or phase of my so-called personality. I want my Reality; only the Reality, the One without a second.

     For such a sadhaka, hindrances due to maya in the form of hidden wrong attitudes and the like, are removed by the love for the Absolute Reality - whose real nature is revealed in the rishi-vakyas (scriptures) and which Itself is God, ishta, and guru - because that is much more powerful (by virtue of the power of Truth) than the combined power of all forms of maya, internal or as objects of the world.

     The true sadhaka is taught to think and feel thus: 'This body, mind, and the rest, are not mine, the experiencer in me is not "I", but everything belongs to the Reality, the Reality is the experiencer, the experienced and also the fact of experience.'

     In the light of the Vedantic truth as revealed by the rishis described above, it is abundantly clear that It is the Absolute Reality itself which is appearing as the sadhaka in one of the illusory forms. As the form is illusory and as the Reality is covered, the sadhaka feels all parts and phases of his personality to be real and belonging to himself, and also the objects of the world of innumerable types - animate, inanimate, men, women, and the like - all to be separately real, and the subject-object dichotomy created by the mind also to be real. But by the mysterious 'lila' of the Reality, the sadhaka comes across a person (or persons) in actual life whom he at once recognizes as representing the Truth, their life as the true perfect life, and feels drawn to them. He feels 'He or It is my only support, I am supported by It alone and so is the whole world'; or 'I belong to Him and so does the world, and He belongs to me'; or 'There is neither world nor "I", it is all He and He alone.' This starts a process of transcendental illumination of all parts and phases of the personality, transcendental illumination of the entire phenomenon called the world, and transcendental illumination of the illusory subject-object duality. But the sadhaka is still a sadhaka; the Reality is not yet manifested in him. The covering or hiding power called maya functions in him in different ways. (One of the ways of this functioning of maya is the Sankhya tendency to perpetuate individualism and dependence on buddhi. There are various other ways in which maya shows itself in the sadhaka's mind.)

     But in the true sadhaka's life the ultimate authorities are the rishi-vakyas (as explained by the great acharyas), the incarnations, and the guru. Through love for these authorities and detachment from everything else, including all objects and persons and all parts and phases of his own personality - with the knowledge that they are all illusory appearances of the Reality - the sadhaka rises higher and higher, crossing all hindrances in his mind and outside. Depending on the power of these authorities which is constantly pulling him higher and higher, and on their words of advice, the sadhaka goes on revising his own thinking, feeling and willing. He keeps on absorbing the illumination playing in the form of these authorities till he himself finally comes to the full realization of Brahman, the One without a second. ~


 


 

       





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